Monday, July 31, 2006

Everton to be bankrolled by a Russian?

There are rumours that an unnamed British-based Russian is set to bankroll Paul Gregg's latest attempt to oust the theatre supremo Bill Kenwright from the head of the table at Everton. The American consortium that was linked with buying Aston Villa last week have also been tipped as a possible buyer for Everton, who have been valued at about £80m. That's a whole premiership club for the price of 2.5 Chelsea players. A snip at half the price!

Britain to become nuclear waste dumping ground?

Today the Committee on Radioactive Waste Management has officially launched it report findings into the best way to deal with nuclear waste. The short version being "dig a really deep hole in the middle fo noweher and chuck it in". Wonder how much money they spent to come up with that one?

This said, there is something slightly worrying about their findings. Apparently, "one third of the land in the UK could be geologically suitable for this purpose". Why make a specifc point of saying that I wonder? Could we be about to see the formation of a Public-Private Partnership company offering nuclear waste management services to the rest of the world, or am I just being a typical cynic?

Does Britain need class action legislation?

If you do a quick bit of googling on "class action" you get back many stories about lawsuits where groups of consumers have combined forces in order to take a corporation to court for poor products, misleading advertising and a multitude of other things. For example, last year Apple settled a class action over the misrepresentation of it's battery life. Another class action was sought against Apple for a design flaw in the iPod Nano at the end of last year as well.

Currently though, the class action lawsuit is largely restricted to the US. However there is now talk of introducing them into British law. A recent article in the The Times suggests that the DTI is thinking of introducing legislation to allow consumers to take class actions against companies. Whether such a move was a decision on the part of the Government or a move to bring it in line with the class-action culture in the EU remains debatable. It does seem likely though that an EU imperative is the driver for it.

The question is, are they a good or bad thing? Arguably there's something to be said for the class action lawsuit. In a very positive sense they enable the figurative "little guy" to take on the big corporations in a way they simply couldn't do if acting individually. However, on the flip side they also appear to encourage a compensation culture and create the perception that the first step to redress - especially for consumers - should always be the court.

Certainly business has issues with such legislation being introduced. There is the very real possibility of class actions being used to achieve political ends against certain companies. And there will undoubtedly be some campaign groups that will use the class action to serve that campaign's ends. Should any legislation be introduced one would hope it strikes a balance between business concerns and the consumers right to redress.

Personally, I think class actions do have a place in British law, but not if they become the equivalent of the ambulance chaser industry that surrounds personal injury claims.

Police investigate Prescott for corruption

According to reports in the papers, the Liberal Democract MP, Norman Baker, has made a formal complaint to the police about John Prescott.

Baker believes that Prescott committed an offence under the Prevention of Corruption Acts 1906 and 1916 when he visited Philip Anschutz's ranch. The act states that Ministers should not accept "hospitality or consideration received from a person or organisation which has obtained or is trying to obtain an official contract".

The same team investigating the possible sale of peerages is apparently taking the matter "seriously".

Sunday, July 30, 2006

Child rapists abscond from Open Prison

It's been reported that two child rapists have absconded from their Open Prison in Wales. Both prisoners were serving life sentences for child rape. John Elms, for the rape of a 15-year-old girl in 1996, and Martin Aspinall, for the rape of a five-year-old girl in 1992.

Simple question, what on earth were paedophile rapists on life sentences doing in an Open Prison?

Privatised Government Chemist aids spammers

Privatisated in 1996, the Laboratory of the Government Chemist has been aiding spammers by relaying mail from it's badly configured mail servers for a number of months now. That os to say they've been relaying spam to me and I'm bloody sick of it.

Basically spammers have exploited a flaw in LGC's configuration whereby they send a mail to a non-existant email address but put the spam's target address (mine) in the RETURN-PATH header. The result is that the target receives a spam email which appears to be a bounce from a mail server. Thus giving the impression it orignated from the target.

Sadly, LGC are incompetent and no matter how many times I tell them about this they do nothing. Time to get their mail server blacklisted, if they stop getting mail it might jolt them into action. No more Mr Nice Sysadmin.

The problem with Straw's Israel argument

According to most of the papers, Jack Straw is leading a Cabinet revolt over the Government policy toward Israel. Whilst Blair is in the US solidly supporting Israel against Hezbollah, Straw has made a speech in his constituency saying:

"Disproportionate action only escalates an already dangerous situation. One of many serious concerns I have is that the continuation of such tactics by the Israelis could further destabilise the already fragile Lebanese nation." Another Cabinet minister told the Sunday Times that "[e]veryone understands that Israel has got to respond to Hezbollah rocket attacks, but to go and bomb Lebanon is outrageous."

I keep on hearing the above argument - or a paraphrased version of it - from not just the Left but the Right too. It always follows the same sort of formula, that Israel has a right to respond, but the way they responded is wrong. At no point does anyone say how they should have responded though, and you kind of get the feeling that for some of them that would be the argument whatever Israel did.

The numbers game is also being played by far too many people. The argument goes that Israel have killed more civilians than Lebanon, therefore Israel bad, Lebanon good. However, it seems to me sadly ironic that an argument inspired by compassion for human life should place value on one set of dead civilians over another.

Some years ago, Stalin callously said the "death of one man is a tragedy, the death of millions is a statistic". By counting and comparing civilian death on each side in order to argue matter of moral right and wrong is not much different to Stalin's dictum. It devalues the loss of death on one side over the other on the pure basis of statistics. The civilians killed by either side, irrespective of numbers, is a tragic loss of human life, period.

It also seems that the question of intent is neatly ignored when arguments like Straw’s are put forward. Israel’s intent is not the destruction of civilians; their intent is the destruction of Hezbollah. Yes, this has meant, for want of better phrase, collateral damage, but it’s a war for heaven’s sake, people are going to die. Israeli intent though is vitally important when placed in the context of Lebanese actions.

Hezbollah doesn't even make a distinction. They blindly fire rockets into Israel, and, if they had enough, they would happily fire them with the intention of wiping out all human life in the country. Their stated aims are the destruction of Israel as a nation. That is a fact that is indisputable, and yet it conveniently ignored in the in the anti-Israeli rhetoric that we so often hear.

There is though something that is far more scary going on in this situation, and I call it my Tom Clancy Complex. I can't help feeling that Israel/Lebanon is merely a diversion for something much wider being orchestrated by Iran, be it their nuclear programme or something else. No doubt Iran are chuckling to themself about how they've orchestrated a situation that's diverted America's attention so successfully.

Saturday, July 29, 2006

Livingstone plans to register cyclists

I have to admit that moaning about cyclists is something I do quite a lot. As a pedestrian there is little more annoying than using a Pelican Crossing and having a cyclist simply ride through the red light whilst you cross (sometimes they even scowl and swear at you as if you are the one in the wrong). Of course, I should stress that not all cyclists do this. The issue however was raised in Ken Livingstone's interview on LBC yesterday. Ken announced that he's thinking of making cyclists have number plates.

"I'm now persuaded we should actually say that bikes and their owners should be registered. There should be a number plate on the back so that the ones breaking the law, we can get them off the cameras. It's the only way you can do it."

I wonder, does Ken think about these things before he says them or do they just roll off his tongue and then he has to deal withthe consequences? Registering cyclists? He can't be serious can he? How much would that cost? Would there be an age limit? Are we all going to have licenses to ride cycles? How much is getting the plate going to cost the cyclist? The idea is utterly absurd and flies in the face of Ken's apparent environmentalism. How can he claim to be green and then want to intorduce disincentive to ride?

As a pedestrian, there is no doubt cyclists in London can be annoying as hell when they ride on the pavement, run red light, and generally act like the Highway Code doesn't apply to themm. However, the logistical costs alone of introducing some sort of license plate system for cyclists in London makes the idea nonsensical, and the running costs of the system would be astonimical. What scares me though is that this is Ken, which probably means he's serious. Council tax rise anyone?

What was the Third Way?

I'll never forget Friday May 2nd 1997 because in some ways it was a catalyst for me politically. You see, I hadn't voted the previous day. I was a second year politics and philosophy undergraduate in London and - as a result of smoking far too much pot - had failed to fill the electoral register form in time (the Sony PlayStation should take some blame too I think). However, the sight of Tony Blair walking into Downing Street with a wide-mouthed frog sent a shot of adrenalin through me.

You see, I didn't really know what to make of it all. I was so busy getting stoned at the time that I’d no idea who the man was, or what he stood for. In fact, I was convinced that the Tories were going to pull off another 1992. I just didn't believe that the country could trust Labour. True, I was hopelessly wrong, but I blame my upbringing in Buckinghamshire on that. When you're brought up in a constituency that was created in 1554 and has been Tory/Whig forever you tend to become blind to reality (obviously the fact I smoked back then didn't help either).

So there I was, May 2nd, shell-shocked. Shell-shocked that the British public had elected a Labour government. Not only that, the silly sods had given them a landslide! It was this that triggered in me the desire to find out exactly what it was these people had voted for. True I was late off the blocks, but I needed to find out anyway. And so I began a journey into the world of New Labour to find out what was actually new about it.

As I began to read lots of very dry pamphlets, and one truly appalling book called The Blair Revolution (a reprint with updates is available here if you're truly twisted), I kept finding references to something going by the name of the Third Way. According to the "thinkers" of New Labour (a certain David Milliband's name appeared many times in online discussions), Labour's platform was based upon this new, groundbreaking philosophy, and it was known as the Third Way.

The New Labour proponents of the Third Way, like sociologist Anthony Giddens, cited Pope Pius XI’s call for "a third way between socialism and capitalism" at the end of the nineteenth century as their starting point. This was, of course, completely different to the Third Position between socialism and capitalism that Mussolini argued for just a few years later.

I discovered that the Third Way was – apparently - a transcendental Hegelian dialectic of the political order (the Italian philosopher Norbeto Bobbio is cited by Giddens on this point as well (can you spot a nationality theme here?)). For Bobbio and Giddens there was no longer Left and Right, but instead some sort of Hegelian Other. A synthesis born of the natural opposition of the two positions that preceded it. Left and Right were no longer significant. Neither the planned economy, nor the liberal economy was correct. What we needed was planned-liberal economy, or, as the German economists called it, Ordoliberalism.

Now, putting aside the issue that such a term is actually an oxymoron, the implications of the Third Way became clear. The "philosophy" (and I use the term very loosely), was founded on an acquiescence towards the Thatcherite consensus of free markets and liberalism. Whilst, simultaneously seeking to shoehorn in what it could of the command structure inherent in the Keynesian economic model.

The result was not a genuine philosophy of substance but instead a rhetoric that could use the language of the Right to portray essentially Left wing positions whilst simultaneously appearing to use the language of the Left to mask its Rightist concepts. It was a double dog-whistle which appealed to natural Tory voters whilst simultaneously appeasing its own side. It was a genius piece of marketing without a doubt, the only problem was policy. How could you have a policy that was genuinely both Left and Right? Oxymorons are oxymorons for a very good reason. You cannot, by definition, order liberalism, nor can you liberalise order.

However, for those that are paying attention you may have noticed that the title of this post asked what the Third Way was? I deliberately chose the past tense because today no one talks about the Third Way. I've been wondering why that might be, and the only thing I can think is that the Third Way was never really more than a Machiavellian by-product in a much wider strategy for gaining and, importantly, maintaining power. In some respects, many of the academics that provided the philosophical langauge we're as much victims of the ruse as the electorate has been.

Friday, July 28, 2006

Bush does "Sunday Bloody Sunday" cover version

The Weird Wide Web

The web always provides on a Friday afternoon it's true. Sod politics, watch Operation rellim and see what happens when you're friends really do nail your entire room to the ceiling. Whilst you're at it, if the humidity is getting to you the you need the helps of Munters.

SysAdmin Appreciation Day

Today is SysAdmin Appreciation Day which means it's a day for people like me. If you're wondering what being a SysAdmin is all about then here's a little info for you:

A sysadmin unpacked the server for this website from its box, installed an operating system, patched it for security, made sure the power and air conditioning was working in the server room, monitored it for stability, set up the software, and kept backups in case anything went wrong. All to serve this webpage.

A sysadmin installed the routers, laid the cables, configured the networks, set up the firewalls, and watched and guided the traffic for each hop of the network that runs over copper, fiber optic glass, and even the air itself to bring the Internet to your computer. All to make sure the webpage found its way from the server to your computer.

A sysadmin makes sure your network connection is safe, secure, open, and working. A sysadmin makes sure your computer is working in a healthy way on a healthy network. A sysadmin takes backups to guard against disaster both human and otherwise, holds the gates against security threats and crackers, and keeps the printers going no matter how many copies of the tax code someone from Accounting prints out.

A sysadmin worries about spam, viruses, spyware, but also power outages, fires and floods. When the email server goes down at 2 AM on a Sunday, your sysadmin is paged, wakes up, and goes to work.

A sysadmin is a professional, who plans, worries, hacks, fixes, pushes, advocates, protects and creates good computer networks, to get you your data, to help you do work -- to bring the potential of computing ever closer to reality.

Alot of people in recent days have been slagging off Google because Blogger has been performing poorly. Today is the day you stop and appreciate the professionals behind Blogger who actually make the free service work and do so tirelessly, and often thanklessly. Oh yes, and appreciate me too!

This is all just getting silly

A morning on the bus would not be right if I didn't get angry and today is no exception. It's been reported today that a pensioner has had to remove a sign from her home which reads "Our dogs are fed on Jehovah's Witnesses" because it's "distressing, offensive and inappropriate".

The sign however has been up since 1974, and the complaint was not received froma Jehovah Witness it seems. In fact they commented that that if they see sgns like that they "turn around and walk away" and that it was not in anyway "hurtful". This didn't stop the Police knocking on the pensioners door though and forcing her to remove it because it caused offence.

Now, besides the fact that this is yet another one of those examples of - to use the cliche - political correctness gone mad, you have to ask yourself, if the Police have so little work to do that they are doing this sort of thing why are they not being redployed to areas where real crimes are occuring?

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Scrapping the royal prerogative for war

The Lords constitution committee has published a report saying the royal prerogative should no longer be used as the legal basis for sending UK troops into actions. According to the reports it should be Parliament that votes on such things. Whilst this sounds fine, won't such a change mean there is a fundamental constitutional shift in the allegiance of the Armed Forces?

As I understand it, members of the Armed Forces take an Oath of Allegiance to the Crown, not Parliament. If Parliament has formal power over the deployment of the Armed Forces what does that mean for their Oath of Allegiance? I don't wish to sound alarmist, but what happens if Parliament votes to implement Martial Law? What safeguard would exist to stop that? As it stands, the Crown and the Royal Prerogative (which remains the Monarch's and not the Prime Minister's in actuality) is what protects against that sort of thing happening.

If we do scrap the Royal Prerogative and replace it with a vote in Parliament there must be necessary protection from abuses of powers, and there will need to be changes to the Oath of Allegiance I would've thought.

Edit: In the comments Dynamite has kindly pointed out that we won the English Civil War and so the monarch is only a theoretical impediment to tyranny, and by implication doesn't matter anyway. Ones belief in the value of the Monarch's roles I think comes down to personal opinion and on that I disagree. The way the system works at the moment you have one PM and one Monarch. If the Monarch wanted to act, it would be, for want of a better term, one against one. However, in the case of a Parliament it would be many against one and so Parliament would claim legitimacy even if it was like a loaded Reichstag. As I said in the last paragraph, we need safeguards if we remove the prerogative.

Cameron joins the BBC?

So Douglas Alexander says that Cameron has merely put "lipstick on a pig" and hasn't really changed the party at all (citing Lord Bell as his proof). At the same timeLord Tebbit says Cameron has taken the party to much to the Left.

So that's the Left accusing Cameron of being to the Right, and the Right accusing him of being to Left. Clearly Dave's joined the BBC!

The NHS crashes into Mars

Back in 1999, NASA's Mars Climate Orbiter was famously lost due to what can only be described as a cock-up. The Lockheed Martin engineering team behind the Orbiter's construction had chosen to use British imperial measurements, whilst the NASA flight team were using metric. Not a good combination, and the inevitable happened, and a $125 million project crashed into the Martian surface. Obviously this isn't that much different to other Mars projects which fail, but embarassing none the less.

I'm mentioning this because it's a comparison which sprang to mind whilst reading the Spectator this morning on the Tube. In an article a reference was made to how such incompetent mistakes have been shown to occur in the NHS, and whilst they may not cost quite so much in monetary terms, the cost to the availability of services is immense. The details of this cock-up can be seen in this report which details - under the title of "What went less well" - the mistakes made in setting pricing to basic hospital procedures in the NHS.

As a result of data-entry mistakes involving decimal points in the wrong place, hospitals have been invariably charging incorrectly for basic operations which has resulted in cancellation on cost grounds, and the now well known deficits in so many Primary Care Trusts. What's more, the number of people involved in setting internal prices for the entire is a grand total of three. Is it any wonder that mistakes are being made that are rippling through to effect front line service provision?

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

"They made me do it!"

When it comes to war crimes it's a commonly held legal principle that the Nuremberg Defence of "I was only following orders" is not a valid argument. Responsibility lies with the one who commits the offence, and blaming someone for telling you to do it cannot absolve your guilt of still actually doing it. Such a principle is sound and ought really be applied to all aspects of the law, however, as I understand it, the invalidity of the Nuremberg Defence, applies only to circumstances where charges of war crime are brought.

I only discovered this after deciding to write a post about the news that sentencing guidlines have changed in cases of teenage robbery and mugging. Apparently, a teenager mugger can now use the defence of "peer pressure" to mitigate their sentence. That is to say, effectively, the Nuremberg Defence will now be used by every single child arrested for mugging. The phrase "he/she/they made me do it your Honour" will become commonplace in youth courts.

This kind of nonsense undoubtedly stems from the Left wing view that the "causes of crimes" provide not just explanation for criminal acts but also mitigate and excuse them entirely. The effect is that future society is growing up thinking that they can get away with anything simply by blaming something, or someone else, for the crime, thereby ignoring their own personal responsibility for it.

What's more, in the specific case of teengage muggings we'll more than likely see leaders of gangs cite peer-pressure by blaming the gang memebrs they're bullying safe in the knowledge that they won't be grassed upon. We may as well just abolish the crime of mugging and be done with it. It would save the court's time and money and the end result would be roughly the same.

Don't misunderstand me here though, of course it's true that the "causes of crime" are important. However, we should be addressing those factors in a broad societal sense, separate from the criminal acts. We shouldn't be using them as excuses for the acts themselves. The law is the law. Break it, you get punished. If we continue down the road of providing circular defences for teenage crime, then surely we hold the foundation and meaning of law in contempt, don't we?

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Longbridge cost the taxpayer £270m to close

According to a report published by the Commons public accounts committee, the collapse of MG Rover cost the taxpayer an estimated £270m. This is beleived to be the accumulative cost to the taxpayer of the slow demise of Longbridge from 2000, a demise which culminated in a £6.5m election bribe by the Government in 2005. However, it also looks increasingly likely that the taxpayer may have to foot the bill for the £500m blackhole in the companies pension fund as well.

How ironic that such announcement should be made just a week after Nanjing Automotive Corporation said that Longbridge is going to reopen. The only difference will be that all car parts will be made in China, and then shipped to Longbridge for putting together. The Government might like to themselves "New Labour" but keeping Longbridge afloat by throwing taxpayers money at it was a very "Old Labour" thing to do.

No doubt the day Longbridge reopens it will portrayed by Labour as a success, whilst the hundreds of lost millions are quietly forgotten.

Government plans to censor political memoirs

The Government is planning to stop people writing memoirs that may highlights splits and arguments in Cabinet by forcing Ministers, civil servants, advisors and others officials to sign non-disclosure agreements as a condition of their positions. Any potential publications would have to be vetted first by a committee and sanitised for public consumption. Open Government eat your heart out, it's all so quanitly Soviet.

A-levels and University

It's been reported that Alan Johnson, the Education Secretary has helped a local constituents child get into private school because there were no "suitable" state schools for the boy to go to. It's good to see that Alan Johnson doesn't have an automatic disgust at private schools, what is best for the child in the specific circumstances should always be paramount in education decisions, not some out of date obssessive and quasi-scienitific grand narrative of society.

This said, the story also comes on the back of the preemptive speech by Alan Johnson to close down the yearly debate of whether A-Levels and GCSEs are getting easier. The problem though is that achieving high grades - in a very broad sense - has changed dramatically in the past 25 years. However that should not denigrate the effort that kids actually put in.

The issue - as teachers have explained it to me - is that the structure and rules behind marking are what is causing the appearance of grade inflation. In many exams, answers are about showing known points of knowledge within the syllabus. That might mean, in say history, showing key facts about events you've been taught about. Deviation from the known syllabus however can effectively lose you marks.

If for example you're obssessed with Soviet political history (which I am), and you answer a question which spends time using things that are not wrong, but were not taught, to justify an argument on say Stalin, you may find yourself acheiving a low grade even though you've demonstrated a deep understanding of the topic.

However, it's important to recognise that the work students put in for A-Level is not getting easier or less as such. The problem is they're not being taugth the subject but rather being taught to pass the exams. The argument against this from the Left is that people are simply achieving more because schools have got so much better. If that is true then why do employers and universities say the opposite?

A cursory glance at the drop-out rate in the first year of University suggests that many who go are wasting a year of their lives unnecessarily. Surely it is right to ask questions about why, someone who apparently achieves at A-level, just can't hack it at undergraduate level?

Instead of concentrating on arbitrary targets for the number of people going to University (with it's rather apparent consequence on the structure of A-levels), perhaps we should concentrate on the number of people who actually finish? Who cares how many go to Uni, it doesn't matter. What matters is how many people don't drop out.

The International Baccalaureate may help solve the problems, however, a foreign language is a key component of such a qualification, and current Government policy is such that exposure to foreign lanague doesn't happen until a child is in their early teens. Unless there is a policy change which introduces foreign languages at primary level, it's unlikely the International Baccalaureate will ever be a realistic replacement for the A-level.

Monday, July 24, 2006

Price of a passport set to rise... again

The cost of a passport is set to rise for the second time within 12 months to £66. At a time when the Home Office is apparently "not fit for purpose" and immigration policy is in tatters, the ordinary holidaymaker is going to be hit with the bill, just for the privilege of a bit of sun and sand.

Last November, the cost of a passport went up from £42 to £51, and now, in October it will rise again to £66. For anyone wondering that's a total rise of just over 50% in less than a year. Another neatly buried news story under the fanfare of the CSA's quasi-abolition.

Why not use the tax system?

I've finally read a bit more news after a busy morning at work and I see the Government has decided it's time to abolish the Child Support Agency (CSA). After nine years in power and over ten years of talking about how the CSA must be reformed (how many time has Tony told us that now over the years?), they've come to the conclusion that the only solution is abolition - or more accurately a name change with some internal policy changes too.

What's more, in true New Labour style the solution is little more than the typical headline grabbing intiatives, such as curfews designed to stop fathers going out - presumably to the pub - after work. God knows who will actually enforce these curfews given police numbers are down and PCSOs have no powers of arrest. Apparently the strategy is that the new body will be more effective at forcing parents to provide financial support.

Is it me though, or do we not have this whole system of child support upside down? Rather than an agency requesting payments - and using punitive punishment for non-payment - why don't we use the tax system and take the maintenance payments off them before they have a chance to go out and spend it? Is it really that difficult?

Potentially the shortest speech in history?

Apparently, the Home Office minister Liam Byrne is going to be speaking at the Immigration Advisory Service conference today about the government's immigration policy. What immigration policy?

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Prescott to be on Sunday AM

After cancelling his appearance on Sunday AM a few months ago, Prescott is finally going to be on the show this morning. Will Marr give him an easy or tough time? Who knows. My gut tells me the former rather than latter will be the case. Wonder if that other woman will get a mention? I wait and watch with baited breath!

Update: Easy ride really, Marr just let him ramble on. Prescott had a right scowl on his face whilst Marr read our the quote slagging off Tory sleaze. Most amsuing thing was him saying that Tony Blair has influence with the US. Prescoot also says that Labour members don't think he should stand down.

Sunday paper roundup

The following headlines caught my attention this morning.

Corruption in the Home Office immigration department is rife. Norman Baker, Lib Dem MP questions the "suicide" of David Kelly. Apparently it is now officially a sin to fly. The Foreign Office is said to have split with the US in it's language towards Israel. Labour has failed to pay £436,000 interest on it's "commercial terms" loans. Scotland is receiving £3bn more than it should be from England.

The British Motor Show

Yesterday I went to the British Motor Show at Excel. I've been to Exel a number of times before but those have always been small scale exhibitions, I've never seen it used on this scale. I won't bore you too much with the detail, here are some pictures of cars very few of us will ever drive let alone buy.

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Iain Dale's Fantasy Football League

Iain Dale has set up a fantasy football league over at the Premiership's website. To join it you'll need to put in the following code 239252-43069 once you've picked your squad.

My squad:

Friday, July 21, 2006

Understanding hackers

A mild non-political story from me admittedly, but I thought I'd write a few words explaining the difference between how the media portrays something, and the way the world actually is. You see, over there to the right - in the side-panel - you'll see it says I'm a "part-time hacker". This post is intended to explain exactly what that means.

There are actually two communities on the Net that call themselves hackers. The first is the community that you've all heard about. They're the ones that take pride in maliciously breaking into other people's systems. However, there is the other community of hackers who have been around much longer and actually consider it rather an insult to be mistaken for the first community.

Just to explain, imagine how annoyed and insulted a car mechanic would be if when the media said "car mechanic" they actually meant "car thief"? Imagine what it would be like to have to tell people you were a "car mechanic" and everyone to assumed you were a "car thief".

A hacker is like the car mechanic. A hacker loves computers, and wants to get under their bonnet's. The hacker wants to make computers do impressive things through tinkering. The hacker isn't interested in breaking into other people's computers and stealing information. The hacker see such acts in the same way they see stealing a car. It's wrong.

The next time you hear the word "hacker" uttered by people like John Snow or Jeremey Paxman, remember that what they're actually talking about are what hackers call "crackers", or, more perjoratively, "script kiddies".

A hack is legal. A crack isn't.

Prescott Inquiry imminent?

According to Sky News the standards committee has called for an investigation into John Prescott's relationship with the billionaire owner of the Millennium Dome as it says Prescott did break the ministerial code. We all knew that anyway but it's nice to know it's going to be officially declared.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

The martians invaded

For anyone who may wonder why my blog has had such a lack of anything much today it's because of the martians. This has been the bane of my existence most of the day. I don't expect anyone to understand it, I certainly didn't for a while.
kernel: martian source aabbccdd for 11223344, dev eth0
However, victory was had, the martians are no more.

An update on Companies House

The Conservative spokesman on small business and enterprise, Mark Prisk MP, has apparently taken up the issue of Companies House's web search facility only being "available from Monday to Saturday 7.00am to 12 Midnight UK Time".

I'm told - in a written question scheduled to receive a reply from the Department of Trade and Industry on 25/07/2006 - he's asked:

"why the webbased search facility of Companies House is not available twenty four hours a day and what plans his department has to extend the service hours.."

Colleagues and I have been trying to think why the system is not available overnight or in Sundays and the only reason we can come up with (bearing in mind we're all techies), is that the system is horrendously old, is probably running on some antiquated Microsoft Access database, and it requires so many outages for backups and change. It's great that Mark Prisk has tabled a question on it and I'm actually quite looking forward to the answer.

Milliband's hair-brained carbon scheme

In a move that is clearly an attempt to "out green" Cameron, David Milliband has floated the utterly ridiculous idea of individual carbon allowances using smartcard technology. Apparently he said: "Imagine a country where carbon becomes a new currency. We carry bank cards that store both pounds and carbon points. When we buy electricity, gas and fuel, we use our carbon points, as well as pounds...People on low incomes are likely to benefit as they will be able to sell their excess allowances... People on higher incomes tend to have higher carbon emissions due to higher car ownership and usage, air travel and tourism, and larger homes."

What about large families on low income David? Are you going to give carbon allowances to children from birth, or will it only count when you become 18? Have you any credibility in being able to architect, build and code the colossal IT system behind such a scheme? What of information security David? Combine this with Oyster, CCTV, ID cards and you complete the full circle of surveillance where virtually everything we do is monitored by the state in some way.

What the hell has happened to liberty in this country?

Exclusive: Eltham candidate shortlist

I've just heard that the shortlist for the Open Primary to be held in the Eltham constituency in south-east London will be, in alphabetical order, Jackie Doyle-Price, David Gold and Eric Ollerenshaw.

The three are going to be interviewed at the Open Primary by Michael Portillo next week. Apparently, the sitting Labour MP, Clive Efford is yet to register.

Update: Rebecca Harris is apparently the "reserve" candidate should one of the above three get selected for another seat before the July 31st Primary..

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Riding out for an Indian

Whatever was the topic of discussion at the Indian Diner in Rochester Row last night? Apparently, Prescott shared a table with Stephen Byers (thought they hated each other?), George Howarth and Rosie Winterton.

Were they moving the plates around the tables?

Do we need a Fourth Amendment?

Yesterday, I read a suggestion that there ought to be legal protection in the UK which is equivalent to the Fouth Amendment of the US Constitution. The Fourth Amendment states that:

"The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized."

The argument put forward was that with Fourth Amendment style protection, the Natwest Three would not have been able to be extradited as it would have required probable cause to be established in a UK court, which, if my understanding of the case is correct, would not be possible as from our perspective no crime has actually been committed.

Could this be the kind of thing that Cameron was thinking of for our own Bill of Rights (or an amended Human Rights Act)? I've just been looking through the current Human Rights Act and the European Convention and I can't see any equivalent protection to the Fourth Amendment (willing to be shown otherwise of course).

E-government at its finest

Unbelievably, in this 24/7 online world, the web based search facility for Companies House is only "available from Monday to Saturday 7.00am to 12 Midnight UK Time"

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Statement of Accounts released

The Statement of Accounts for 2004 of all political parties have been released by the Electoral Commission. Bottom line is that the Tory party is £15m in deficit and Labour are £14.5m in deficit.

Jack Straw thinks it's all about "party funding"

It seems Jack Straw has waded into the Lord Levy row and said, as expected is trying to frame the debate around the wide issue of party funding. The problem though is not party funding really. In a liberal democracy people should be able freely make donations to political parties if they choose to.

The problem is the perception that donations can buy you influence or, in the most extreme circumstance, buy you a permanent seat for life in Parliament. Making the second chamber wholly elected would remove that perception.

It's simple. Close the loopholes that allow big sponsors money to be hidden, and make the second chamber's composition a matter for the electorate.

The bookie doesn't always win in this special relationship

Everynow and again there are stories that neatly link together even though they appear unconnected. The news of an open microphone catching an exchange of words between President Bush and President Prime Minister Blair, and the arrest of the CEO of a UK-owned and UK based online bookie for alleged racketeering may not appear connected, but the fate of the arrested CEO is possibly already determined given the now exposed reality of Blair relationship with Bush.

I'm not going to go into the lurid details of the conversation (see the transcript here), what I will say is that it's telling how Blair desperately tries to ingratiate himself with Bush, and also shows his obsession with presentation when he pushes Bush to let him go to the Middle East. Whilst this suggests a lot about Blair's own awareness of how weak he has become at home, it's also apparent Bush knows too as he rebuffs Blair's suggestions.

Now fast forward to the CEO of, David Carruthers, being arrested whilst between flights in Texas and you have to ask whether he has any chance in appeals from the British government? Given the outrageous extradition of the Natwest Three in the last week, this latest example of US legal jurisdiction apparently extending to outside it's own border is starting to look very odd indeed. The argument against Curruthers is that his company's website - colocated in London - accepted bets from Americans and thereby broke the US Wire Act. By accepting bets he is accused of defrauding the US out of $3bn in tax as well.

However, is arrested actually the correct term for what has happened to him? After all, if reports are correct he was interconnecting between flights, so he won't actually have passed through US immigration, thus he never entered the country. Doesn't that mean - technically at least - he was a very public victim of extraordinary rendition?

What seems clear though is that whatever happens, the British government - and Blair in particular - have little influence in the Bush Administration these days. That cannot bode well for David Carruthers and his family.

Monday, July 17, 2006

House of Dominos

Something tells me they were either stoned or drunk when they came up with this idea.

John Reid to introduce "super-Asbos"

Apparently the Home Office is planning on introudcing a new "super-Asbo" which is going to be used to fight serious organisedd crime. They're going to be called Serious Crime Prevention Orders (SCPO) and will apparently be used like ASBO's to ban known serious crime bosses from certain activities, for example, carryng too much money, using a telephone etc.

According to John Reid they will be used to tackle crimes like drug trafficking, organised immigration crime, credit card and identity fraud and money laundering. Whatever happened to just catching people and putting them in prison?

Creating a new A* grade

Yesterday Alan Johnson said in an interview on Sunday AM that he thought there might be an argument for a new grade at A-Level called A* in order to distunguish the very best pupils.

Why create a new grade though when you could just up the standard required for A? I realise that that would mean a number of pupils would get given Bs and that would upset educationalists who think it will destroy their self-esteem, but frankly, in the working world you have to get used to that kind of thing. A boss will not care about your feelings if you don't achieve what was required.

The way rail was privatised was wrong

In a speech today, Chris Grayling (shadow tranpsort secretary) will be saying that the wat in which the railways were privatised by the last Tory Government was a mistake. For me this is another welcome sign of change in the party's thinking. For too long now, when people think of the Tories they think it means privatisation. We spent so many years privatising things with an almost zealous belief in the market that we began - in my view at least - to bury our heads in the sand when things didn't actually work, the railways being a fine example.

Put simply, the separation of railway into one big company that owned the tracks, and then over 20 companies running trains has caused nothing but problems. The most obvious being that everyone has someone else to blame. This doesn't mean we should see the solution as a return to BR though, far from it. However, it is about time the railways were seriously reviewed and genuine restructing takes place.

Personally, I think we should look at the likes of the DLR in London, which to my knowledge is run and owned by one single company. It runs efficiently, and is relatively cheap within the whole scheme of things. It's not beyond problems, but it is a far more pleasurable service to use than any other I know of.

£38,000 a year in benefits but still can't pay the rent?

Just read a comment in the Mail about a family with nine kids in Newcastlet hat received £38,000 per year in state beneifts and yet is threatened with eviction by it;s Housing Association for failing to keep up with it's £12.50 per week rent.

Words fail me.

Guido yet to receive a writ

Apparently, threatened libel proceedings have not occurred against Guido after the allegation he made at the beginning of July. A spectacularly called bluff on Guido's part it seems.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

File on 4

On the way home from a day out in Kent I was listening to File on 4 and the subject of the UK Government's support for Mittal Steel came up. In the interview the presenter was asking "so why did the Government support them if they're not a British company?"

Unbelievably at no point was Lakshmi Mittal's £500,000 donation to the Labour Party, or his later £2m donation mentioned. So much for the investigative reporting of File on 4!

Cherie Blair in another sleaze scandal

According to emails leaked to the Mail on Sunday, Cherie Blair has, yet again, got herself involved in as sleaze scandal where she helps a friend of a friend out. This time it seems she arranged for the directors of private medical firm, Nexus healthcare group, to gain exclusive access to Downing Street's health policy supremo, Paul Corrigan. It seems that one of the heads of Nexus just happens to be the boyfriend of Cheri's close confidante and fixer, Martha Greene.

Will this woman ever learn? It looks very much like she's banged to rights, or perhaps the person that wrote the email will simply find themsleeves smeared in the press? Alternatively she may just try and go for the "I am a working mum *sniff*, I'm not wonder woman you know *wipe tear, sniff*" again, then we'll "draw a line under it, and move on".

Saturday, July 15, 2006

It's a funny old world II

Introducing the 'The Ex' 5-piece SS Knife Set with Unique Holder, only $59.99! Available from

I think it's just going to be one of those days.

It's a funny old world

Below is a street billboard advert to promote kitten neutering in New Zealand. Apparently it caused some upset, can't imagine why.

Friday, July 14, 2006

Gordon announces his MPC appointees

A few weeks ago I wondered who Gordon Brown would appoint to the MPC. Yesterday, following criticism of the appointment process by MPs and the Bank of England Governor, Mervyn King, Brown finally announced the names of the two economists who will join the committee that sets the UK interest rate. The first is a professor at the LSE called Timothy Besley, and the second is the chief economist at British Airways, Andrew Sentance. They will not however join the committee formerly until the autumn.

So who are these two and will they change the balance of the MPC? It's fair to say that Timothy Besley is an unknown quantity. His academic work gives no real indication of how he may vote, however, Andrew Sentance appears to be a different matter. Unlike his recently passed predecessor, David Watson, Sentance appears to be a be an advocate of interest rate cuts.

In recent months Watson had been arguing for a rise in rates. At the same time the new man Sentance, as member of the Times "shadow MPC", had voted for a rate cut in both March and April. It seems therefore - by implication at least - the MPC is about to become slightly more "dovish" toward rate rises.

We shouldn't really be surprised with this though as it undoubtedly suits Brown. Having a rate-cutting MPC in place instead a rate-rising one, means that should Brown call a snap election he'll have something to shout about at the hustings.

Are they really technophobes?

I just spotted that the BBC is running a shock revelation story that Tony Blair has his own email account. As the article says, Blair has been at the head of a government that has seen him take part in web chats and spend millions on promoting e-government, and yet, allegedly, he's a technophobe. The BBC then cites Alastair Campbell's article for AOL's /discuss campaign in which he said Downing Street was a "pen and paper" place and he used to get people to type his emails for him from hand written notes. Finally they close with a quote from Prescott's now infamous interview on Today last week where he said, "I think it's called the internet, isn't it, or blogs or something, I've only just got used to letters, John, I haven't got into all this new technology." Basically, the BBC's main thrust is that the entire government hasn't got a clue about IT, at least that is "the line".

This idea that the no one in the highest offices in Government has a clue when it comes to a keyboard and monitor is just nonsense. For a start Alastair Campbell certainly knows how to write an email and the claim that he had other people write them for him is bollocks. He famously wrote an email from his Blackberry that was meant for the Transport and General Workers Union but he sent it to Newsnight instead. Yes, he has fat fingers, but technophobe he is not. As for John Prescott, he had his own blog during the 2005 election. Of course, it sorts the Government's needs right now to push the line that they're all technoweenies. I imagine Blair is hoping that Inpsector Knacker will not start forensic analysis on the disk platter on that PC he never uses.

Terrorist supporting MP will stand against Brown

As mentioned last night, the MP who thinks people that blow up the public should be honoured, John McDonnell, is going to stand against Gordon Brown when Blair steps down. He claims he wants to win back the broad church of supporters that Blair and Brown have lost, and he wants to ensure there is no coronation of a new leader.

Nick Ferrari to run against Ken?

There's a rumour going around that Nick Ferrari (the LBC 97.3 Breakfast show presenter) has decided to enter the planned Open primary to find a Conservative Party to run against against Ken Livingstone at the next mayoral election in 2008. Nick has been mulling it over on his blog and his show over the past week (even inviting people to call in and ask him questions).

Nick Ferrari would, I'm sure, make an excellent mayor and be a breath of fresh air to London after being under the control of Red Ken for so long. The biggest challenge we face as a party against Ken is his high profile. Nick Ferrari, has a high eneough profile to match Ken.

All Nick has to do is get through the primary, which, if the rumours are true, could include Sir John Stevens.

Beirut burns... again

Israel has found itself engaged in military conflict on two fronts, fighting Hamas in the Gaza Strip and now drawen back in Lebanon fighting Iranian-backed Hizbollah. After the kidnapping of an Israeli solider a few weeks ago provoked incursions into Gaza, Israel was further provoked into reacting to Lebanon after Hizbollah backed militant captured more Israeli solders. A naval blockade has been placed on Lebanon by Israel, and there is talk of bombing to sever the main road to Syria.

Perhaps I'm being overly conspiratorial, but I have this strange feeling that there is a much wider view to these latest development. It's well known that Israel will not hesitate to react when it feels threatens or see attacks on it's military. For Lebanon and Hizbollah to enter the fray makes me wonder if there is direction coming from Iran and/or Syria in some way (be it top political direction, or simply lower down jihadi's).

No doubt the usual suspects will roll out from the Left, completely miss the point, and tell us it's all Israel's fault and if they just withdrew to 1948 borders everyone would have a big group hug and live in peace and harmony again.

Blair to be questioned under caution?

Everyone been wondering if and when the "Loans for Peerages" police investigation wiull reach the office of the Prime Minister in Downing Street and it looks like it's going to happen when he gets back from his summer holiday. Currently Downing Street is saying they've had no indication from the Police that the Prime Minister will be questioned.

However, as Inspector Knacker said yesterday, he'll go "wherever the evidence takes him", and police sources have suggested to hacks that it's only a matter of time before Blair is questioned, and questioned under the caution. That will make him the first ever serving Prime Minister to be questioned by the police about a corruption scandal.

One thing is for sure in this scandal. It makes "Cash for Questions" - which Labour activists have a tendency to cite as the zenith of Tory sleaze - seem insignificantly small in comparison.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Back to the future?

Apparently the old Labour left-winger John McDonnell has decided to have his own Anthony Meyer moment and will hold a press conference tomorrow to announce he's going to challenge for the Labour leadership.

There's also a rumour that, to ensure the time travel back to 1990 feeling is experienced fully at the press conference, he'll be wearing white jeans and a waistcoat. He'll also come on stage to "Hangin' Tough" by New Kids on the Block. He's asked that people call him John rather than Anthony though, less he might get confused about the name of the Prime Minister.

Update: For anyone wondering what sort of man John McDonnell is then the following quote about the IRA from Wikipedia should give you an idea:

"It's about time we started honouring those people involved in the armed struggle. It was the bombs and bullets and sacrifice made by the likes of Bobby Sands that brought Britain to the negotiating table. The peace we have now is due to the action of the IRA."

Iain Dale the secret leftie?

Recently, the "Tyrannosaurus Rex of Labour Blogs" Bob Piper changed his blog links around so they were catergorised into political alignment (after I suggested in a comment it would be a good idea). It looks like in the rush he put Iain Dale into the lefties grouping.

I've been wondering though, is this really just a mistake? Perhaps Iain Dale is actually a secret socialist sent to infiltrate the Right, and Bob's made a freudian slip because he's in on the elaborate plot! I imagine they're both part of the repitillian conspiracy too. I think I'm going to have wear my aluminium foil deflector beanie tonight, it's all getting too much for me!

Cameron announces EPP withdrawal

I've just received the following email from CCHQ:

David Cameron today fulfilled his pledge to withdraw the Conservative Party from the European People’s Party (EPP) Parliamentary Group and form a new group in the European Parliament.

Today he will sign an agreement to form the new group with the Czech Prime Minister-designate and leader of the Civic Democratic Party (ODS), Mr Topolanek. At Mr Topolanek’s explicit request, the new group will be formed at the beginning of the next European Parliament in 2009.

In addition, the Conservative Party and the ODS will immediately establish a new Movement for European Reform, which will campaign to tackle the challenges that Europe faces. Other political parties which share our objectives, and are dedicated to our ideals of a more open, modern, flexible and decentralised European Union, will be welcome to join the new movement.

Well we knew this was coming afer Guido and ConservativeHome ran it. I like the way it's been spun as fulfillment of the pledge. Looks like Iain Dale's point about why David Davis didn't make the same pledge in the leadership contest was correct.

Update: It looks like Iain Dale got the same email as me and typed faster.

It's time for an elected second chamber

If ever there was a time to strongly argue for genuine House of Lords reform then today is surely that day? Rather than burying bad news, we ought to be using the daily revelations in the Loans for Peerages scandal to push for a lasting settlement to Blair's tinkering with the second chamber. A settlement that should form part of a much wider constitutional review and include proposals to resolve the West Lothain Question.

In 1997, Blair promised to reform the House of Lords by removing the hereditary peers. As is very well known, this was only ever part done with a deal for a certain number of hereditary peers (essentially the ones that actually did work) to remain and become life peers. Since then, the House of Lords has been defined solely as a chamber of patronage. It seems almost inconceivable that anyone could argue that a situation where entry to the second chamber is based on Prime Ministerial patronage is somehow more satisfactory then one based upon birth. The least worst option argument simply doesn't wash.

Those in favour of the second chamber being appointed have - it seems - a tendency to argue that if the House of Lords were elected then it would fundamentally undermine the supremacy of the Commons. The problem - as far as I can tell - is the Commons is not actually the supreme body, Parliament is. The Commons has no supremacy in a general sense. It does have statute supremacy in the Parlaiment Act which provides for the specific circumstances (i.e. forcing throiugh a manifesto commitment), but in the wider constitutional sense the Lords can still block the Commons anyway, it just tends not to because it's aware of it's own lack of democratic legitimacy.

In my view we should be looking at introducing something along the following lines:
  1. The chamber must represent the proportional party shares of the national vote for the Commons.
  2. The quasi-sincecures for Lords memebrs should be ended by introducing term limits.
  3. The positions should be paid at the national average salary rate.
  4. The Parliament Act should be ammended to account for the chamber's new legitimacy.
The last of the above refers to the situation whereby - in it's current state - the Parliament Act could be used to overrule a demoractically representative House of Lords whilst not holding a share of the national vote over 50%. The Parliament Act should therefore be ammended so that it cannot be invoked where the party in Government in the Commons does not command an overall majority in the Lords, thus safeguarding against the "elective dictatorship".

Putting it simply, we should not be afriad of genuine bicameralism. It is good for democracy, and ultimately good for legislation.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Why a blogger should avoid travel

It's typical, I went on holiday at the beginning of July and the proverbial hit the fan around the Deputy Prime Minister and I missed it. Then I get on a plane, I'm halfway over the Bay of Biscay and Lord Levy gets arrested! Still, at least Nick Robinson is blogging about Levy now, better late than never.

So, now that Maundy Gregory has been arrested and bailed I wonder what "whiter than white" Tony must be thinking? You can bet John Prescoot is well chuffed that the media attention will be somewhere else for the next few days.

The real question is whether this time the story does signal the beginning of the end for Blair. We've had so many false starts on that one the cynic fears Tony teflon ability. If he's going to go then it's going to be his own side that sticks the knife in deep and hard. I imagine Prescott's proverbial "tectonic plates" are going into seismic overdrive tonight.

Here's a question though, has a Prime Minister in recent times lurched so rapidly from scandal to scandal in the space of six monthes?

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Protest about the "right of protest"

Just spotted the following Pledge Bank pledge being promoted on Boris Johnson's blog.

It's a pledge to be involved in a prtest about the Westminster no-protest zone by forming a human chain around the edge of the zone. This will mean the protest is 100% legal and won't require prior permission. The closing date for the pledge is January 2007, and they need 6000 signatures. You can sign up now, here.

Livingstone sticks the boot into Prescott

Apparently in an interview this evening with the Mayor of London on BBC London News, Ken Livingstone said that John Prescott's meetings with Mr Anschutz were "vital" in securing a deal on the Dome.

Doesn't sit well with Prescott's assertion on the Today programme that "no discussion took place about the Dome" does it?

Hat tip to The Last Boy Scout for the tip-off.

Will Nick Robinson blog about Lord Levy?

I wonder if Nick Robinson will actually make a comment on his blog about the latest Lord Levy revelations today? I realise it wasn't Nick that got the story for the BBC, but as the BBC's political editor you'd have thought he would've at least passed comment on it by now? After all, it was the main story on the BBC this morning. Perhaps he's waiting until tomorrow?

ID cards set up "to fail" says leaked email

Just spotted a story from the Sunday Times about a leaked Whitehall email in which the civil servant in charge of the scheme basically says that the policy is being set "to fail", and that the scheme is so watered down it is largely pointless.

There is a bit of talk in the blogosphere about this, but it seems Prescott dominated the news so much on Sunday this little gem got, shall we say, buried in the noise. A full transcript of the email can be seen here.

Building more nuclear power stations is not the solution

The Government's Energy Review is to be released today, and as we already knew, nuclear power is the solution Labour has gone for. I'm not sure what to make of this, my gut tells me they've only gone for this because they think they can triangulate the Tory Party by encroaching on their "traditional" pro-nuclear ground. The problem is, that doesn't look like it is necessarily Tory ground anymore, and quite right too in my view. Energy concerns are not something that simplistic solutions like "build more power stations" will solve. We need to be far more sophisticated in what we do, and that should begin by highlighting the reality of our energy problems.

For a start we need to address the so-called "Energy Gap". There is not really an energy gap in the UK. Yes, we have an energy problem, but we're producing more than enough energy already, the problem we have is that we only actually use 33% of it whilst the rest is wasted in heat. The waste is so large that it's equivalent to the heating and hot water needs of all the buildings in the UK. Why does this wastage occur? The problem stems from our outdated centralisation of power stations. Consumers of powers are always remote from the production of their energy. Like bandwidth signals on copper we effectively attentuate energy. This is particularly the case in nuclear energy where water-cooled reactor have to be on the coast.

The solution to this problem lies in localised power station where the heat output can be harnessed for local homes and business needs. These local energy generators are called Combined Heat and Power stations and achieve energy efficiency figures of 95%. This more than doubles the energy efficiency of the centralised systems.

If the Government was being genuinely bold it would introduce a decentralised system which would do more to close the so-called energy gap than building nuclear power stations and would also reduce our reliance on imported gas. Many cities across Europe already run these systems successfully, such as Rotterdam, Malmo, Copenhagen and Helsinki. In Denmark 50% of the country is run on decentralised energy production.

The claim by the Government is that building nuclear power stations will reduce our carbon emmissions. However according to the Government own research, "Sustainable Development Commission position paper - the role of nuclear power in a low carbon economy" (March 2006), the proposal will only actually cut emmissions by 4%, a figure that will be wiped out by the proposed expansion of airports over the coming years. An example of joined-up Government at its best to be sure!

Like the Climate Change Levy, this Energy Review is a simplistic solution that misses the actual problem. We should solve our energy wastage whilst taxing carbon usage. Not generate more wasteful energy whilst taxing energy usage.

For more detailed information on decentralising power click here.

Levy named... Blair next?

Last night it was revealed that Lord Levy was the person that directly advised Sir Gulam Noon not to disclose his loan to the Lords vetting committee. Gulam Noon was nominated for a peerage after giving £250,000 to the Labour Party and submitted his forms for the Lords vetting committee via Downing Street.

Apparently, he then received a phone call directly from Lord Levy telling him that he did not need to disclose the loan. Gulam Noon then called the civil servant at Dowing Street who he gave his forms to, Richard Roscoe, got his forms back and re-submitted them without mentioning the money. Dodgy huh?

It now seems very likely, and logical, that the selling of peerages during this government will - along with Home Office disasters, failed IT projects, and questionable foreign policy mistakes - form a significant part of their history rather than just a by-line in the ever growing catalogue of sleaze.

I imagine Blair has been mulling over the significance of Lord Levy's naming overnight. The initial reaction from Labour has been the not unexpected line thay the "matters are subject to an ongoing police investigation and therefore we have nothing to say." Don't expect that official line to change, but do expect some briefings over the day saying things like "state funding for political parties", "everyone was doing it guv", and possibly even "this shows our internal corruption regulations work".

The real question is whether Inspector Knacker will be knocking on Downing Street's door soon as well. It's inconceivable that Blair didn't know about the phone calls and resubmitted forms, and under whose orders was Lord Levy acting? When history judges Blair I expect along with comparisons between him and Gladstone (due to his predilection for mixing moral crusades with foreign policy), there will now also be comparisons made between him and Lloyd George, with Lord Levy the bit part playing Maundy Gregory.

Of course, I say all this, but Telfon Tony has a habit of getting away with things. We'll probably see some headline grabbing initiatives over the next week in attempt to bury the story, and the sad thing is, many of the mainstream media political hacks will buy it.

Monday, July 10, 2006

Discussing politics on the Internet

Politics is most often about discussion and debate. Discussion and debate also happen to be the two things the Internet is most suited for. There are today so many forms of discussion medium on the Net it's difficult to avoid it. Whether you're still using old school Bulletin Board (yes they do still exist (albeit you don't dial in anymore)); spend your time on IRC surfing through DalNet; ride the tidal wave that is Usenet; or simply hang around on web-based forums and comment on blogs, the thing that binds all of them is discussion.

There is a dark side to that discussion though, and that is the flame war. The flame war is a feature of the Internet that one must admire and pay homage to at the same time. A good flame war can go on for days, it can involve serious hardcore discussion of the highest intellectual calibre, to the most vicious invective that would make Bernard Manning blush. The key though is that it will be relentless, there will be sides, no one will ever admit defeat, and, ultimately, no one will actually win other than in their heads.

If you use the Internet (which you obviously do if you're reading this), and you're interested in politics, then you will engage in a flame war eventually. Whether it's mild or wild will depend on the opponents of battle, and it's fair to say that there are many. For the unitiated, these are the flame warriors

Sunday, July 09, 2006

The problem with LabourHome

Today, Ellee Seymour (the inspiration for this post) has commented on how LabourHome seems to be asleep in reacting to the press, especially given that today it's all about the Labour senior ranks, and the possibility of David Milliband being the heir to Prescott.

For anyone who doesn't know, LabourHome was launched a few weeks ago. The site was set up by the blogger also known as Recess Monkey, Alex Hilton. It's purpose, according to Hilton, was to provide a simlar forum for the Labour grassroots as Tim Montgomerie's ConservativeHome has provided the tory grassroots for some time now.

Ellee is absolutely right to pick this up about LabourHome. I've been hanging around there quite a bit recently and I think they have a fundamental problem. It is unbelievably easy to have a flame war there. There is the threat of moderation but you rarely see it happen - possibly because Hilton is stretched running both Recess Monkey and LabourHome? The result is this mass of voices that lack any serious editorial structure.

What Tim has got right at ConservativeHome is his routine. Each day there is a news review round-up, and then during the day there are updates. Blogs, are linked from the main page in an unobstrusive manner and there is a visible editorial presence in the comments section. Importantly, there is not a free-for-all policy towards user submission and publication.

In comparison, LabourHome is almost like a pretty graphical version of alt.politics.blah (that's on Usenet for those that don't know), and until the editor starts editing it properly it will remain a messy disorganised rabble. Arguably, Charles Clarke's criticism that Blair lacks direction and purpose applies equally to LabourHome. It's future is in Alex Hilton's hands.

Posted from Almeria, Spain

Saturday, July 01, 2006

Off on my hols....

Earlier on Ellee asked if I had writer's block. The truth be known I am flying to Spain in the wee small hours tomorrow so I wasn't really thinking about writing much! I will be away for 10 days so won't be posting (at least I don't expect to be). This is the first time since January 2005 that I've had more than 4 consecutive days off work so I'm going to relax and enjoy it.

In the meantime I'm sure the blog links in the panel will provide people with plenty to read.

p.s. One day I will see us win a penalty shoot-out.

I like to see how it works

A non-political post for Saturday lunchtime. A wonderful picture of my computer. Good isn't it?

A principled Liberal Democrat?

I've just spotted an interesting story linked by Tim Roll-Pickering. It's from Quaequam's blog on Liberati, and appears to be by a Lib Dem who's disgusted by his own party's campaigning tactics, so much so that he stayed home rather than help out.

"I draw the line at dishonesty, I dislike ambulance chasing and I detest scaremongering. The photos of Ben Abbotts “cleaning up” graffiti that is then left is a disgrace. It is similarly a disgrace to go around taking photographs of every single piece of litter on every single street in the constituency in order to present a misleading picture of a constituency drowning in grot, as is now a standard by-election tactic."

It's good to see at least some of the Lib Dems have issues with what they do. The comments in the post make for amusing reading. There's almost a brick by brick analysis of the graffiti pictures.